As Southern side dishes go, there is none better than fried okra. Assuming you can get past the okra pod’s slippery, seedy insides, you’ve found yourself the perfect complement to barbecue, burgers, chicken fried steak — damn near anything you can think of. Unfortunately, most of the fried okra you’ll find is frozen, prepackaged stuff, which can leave you a little underwhelmed when you’ve got a craving.
Fortunately, when you need a fried okra fix, these six restaurants take the South’s finest side dish and treat it right. The next time you’re at one of these establishments, order a basket of fried okra and prepare to be amazed. You’ll never again be able to deal with the frozen garbage served out of a fast food window.
1. Pecan Lodge (above)
Pecan Lodge is known for its brisket, but don’t sleep on the fried okra. There’s nothing particularly special about this okra, only that it is done consistently well every single time you order it. Since Pecan Lodge has moved to Deep Ellum, it also seems like it’s fresher, hotter and even better than it was back at the Farmers Market. You might be tempted to gorge yourself on beef ribs here, but save room for the okra — you need roughage after all that meat, and though it is bathed in grease, fried okra is still technically a vegetable.
2. Ten 50 Barbecue
At many smoked meat joints, the sides are a bit of an afterthought, especially in Texas. At Ten 50 in Richardson, though, the cafeteria-style setting makes for prime fried okra time. We’ve already raved about the always-crisp batter and how delicious this fried okra is when you dip it in ranch dressing (don’t hate), but you should probably just go check it out for yourself. Be warned: This is not a side to split, even though it’s a huge basket. Force everyone to order their own, or you’ll end up sharing more than you like.
3. 18th & Vine
This newly opened restaurant is just getting its footing, but the fried okra is already seriously legit. The collaboration between barbecue whiz Matt Dallman and fancy French chef Scott Gottlich has resulted in fried okra that’s different from anything else you’ll see in Dallas. Whole okra is halved longway, then tossed in a light, barbecue rub-spiced flour before being fried to perfection. Generally, larger pieces of okra get soggy, but these are perfectly crisp. Liberal use of the mustard-y dipping sauce that comes alongside is recommended.
4. Norma’s Cafe
If you want old-school okra (as we often do), Norma’s is the only choice. Locations of this beloved diner litter the metroplex, and that’s a good thing. You’re already going to order up the chicken fried steak, why not continue your artery bomb with a little more grease? Ask for your batch to be fried extra crispy if you like to live on the edge or just enjoy slightly burnt awesomeness.
5. Sissy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar
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If you’ve got “Southern” in your name, your fried okra has to be legit. Fortunately, Sissy’s delivers. The okra here is a little classier, but you should probably expect that considering that one of their most popular dishes is fried chicken and Champagne. Order up both and you won’t feel guilty about pounding the entire basket of fried okra before even asking the rest of your dining companions if they’re interested. Oops.
1. Ellen’s Southern Kitchen
If that plate (pictured above) doesn’t make you want to quit your job and go straight to Ellen’s for a little Southern-fried heart attack, there's something wrong with you. The chicken fried steak here is legendary, but even a legend gets a boost from Ellen's side of fried okra. Let’s just say Ms. Ellen knows her way around flour and frying grease, and that doesn’t just apply to chicken fried steak.